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International Exhibition „Portraits of the Rulers and Magnates of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from Museums in Ukraine“

4 July–28 October 2012

July 4–October 28, 2012
Vilnius Picture Gallery
4 Didžioji St.

The exhibition „Portraits of the Rulers and Magnates of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from Museums in Ukraine" is one of the big international highlights of the Year of Museums (2012) in Lithuania and marks the successful collaboration between the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine as well as the staffs of five large Lithuanian and Ukrainian museums in putting this exhibition together as part of the 2011–2015 cultural cooperation program between the two countries.

The patronage of this exhibition by the ministers of culture of Lithuania and Ukraine is testimony to the shared historical and cultural heritage of these two countries, their shared historical memory, and the long-lived vitality of their state and artistic relations. It is symbolic that this exhibition dedicated to the past and heritage of the early Lithuanian state that once united Lithuanians and Ukrainians – the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – is to be opened on July 4, the eve of the national holiday celebrating the anniversary of the coronation of King Mindaugas, which marked the beginning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

This exceptional exhibition from the point of view of Lithuanian history, culture, and iconography showcases 86 portraits of Lithuania’s and Poland’s rulers and their wives, magnates and high-ranking state officials and their families, and of Church dignitaries painted during the 16th–19th centuries by local and renowned foreign artists. There are 20 portraits of women, 62 images of men, and 4 portraits of children. Until now, most of these portraits have been kept in museum storage rooms and not put on display. Only some of them have been described in scholarly literature. Thus this exhibition provides a rare opportunity for those interested in Lithuanian culture and history to discover a previously little known important collection of art related to Lithuania that is now preserved in the museums of Lviv and Lutsk. This collection was formed and is kept in the historic Ukrainian regions of Halych and Volhynia, a large portion of which belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 14th–early 15th centuries until the Union of Lublin of 1569, and later (until the very end of the 18th century) to the Kingdom of Poland – that is, it was an integral part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Most of the works displayed in the exhibition are paintings (83 in all). One portrait is a sculptural depiction, while two are enamel painting miniatures with metal frames. Most of the portraits were created in the 17th–18th centuries. The exhibition also has on display three portraits painted in the 16th century and several from the 19th century. Some of the imaginative works by artists from the 18th–19th centuries depict historical figures who lived in the 14th–17th centuries.

Apart from the historical significance, the exhibited portraits carry immeasurable artistic value and are a unique iconographic record. About 30 portraits were created recognized as having been created by or were attributed to artists hailing from Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. They include painters who worked for the rulers of Lithuania and Poland, such as Daniel Schulz (1615–1683), Martino Altomonte (1659–1745), Louis de Silvestre (1675–1760), and Marcello Bacciarelli (1731–1818); the French portrait painter Jean Francois de Troy (1645–1730); the Austrian painter Joseph Pitschmann (1758–1834), who resided in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; and the student of Franciszek Smuglewicz, Józef Peszka (1767–1831). In terms of their unique plasticity, the canvases painted by Lviv artists Wojciech Stefanowicz († 1588), Szymon Boguszowicz (ca. 1575–1648), and Mateusz Domaradzki (ca. 1610–1680) as well as those by Konstanty Aleksandrowicz (mentioned 1777–1794), Józef Ksawery Heski († ca. 1810), Franciszek Pawlikowicz (18th c.), and Bazyli Klikowski (18th c.), who worked in the manors of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s nobility, stand out. During the 16th–17th centuries, Lviv was an important cultural center for the arts. Other portraits were created by more or less skilled, yet unrecognized and unidentified, local painters from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. All the works on display in the exhibition once belonged in the collections of the early Lviv residences, churches and city estates (Chortkiv (Чорткiв), Olesko (Олесько), Pidhirci (Пiдгiрцi), Vyshnivets (Вишнівець), Zhovkva (Жовква), and others), before ending up in the museums of Lviv and Lutsk in the 19th–20th centuries.

These portraits of distinguished historical figures help us learn about the history of the early Lithuanian state, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – revealing its cultural development and ties to European art. In the exhibition there are 26 portraits of the rulers of Lithuania and Poland and their family members, most of which were painted by the most renowned painters of the Commonwealth and Europe. The portrait of the young prince Jacob Ludwik Sobieski (1667–1737), the son of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania John Sobieski (1674–1696), painted by Martino Altomonte (?) around 1677, is one of the most beautiful child portraits in the art of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Other paintings of high artistic quality include the portrait of Jacob Ludwik Sobieski’s sister, Theresa Kunegunda (1676–1730) by Jean Francois de Troy (ca. 1690); the portrait of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki (1669–1673), attributed to Daniel Schulz; the portrait by an unknown 17th century artist of Wiśniowiecki’s wife, Eleonora Maria Habsburg (1653–1697), wearing a white dress; the portrait by Louis de Silvestre of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Augustus III (1734–1763); and the portrait of the last King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (1764–1795) by Marcello Bacciarelli.The portrait of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund Vasa (1588–1632), with the image of the victory at Smolensk in 1611 in the background, painted by Szymon Boguszowicz, is a highlight of the show.

The portrait of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Stephen Bathory (1576–1586), attributed to Wojciech Stefanowicz, is interesting because it is one of the earliest portrayals of this Commonwealth ruler – painted right after his election in 1576. A rare work of great artistic value in the exhibition is the marble bust of Barbara Zapolya (1495–1515), the first wife of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund the Old (1506–1548). For a long time, it was thought that this was an image of Barbara Radziwiłł (ca. 1520–1551), the second wife of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund Augustus, because of the Radziwiłł coat-of-arms on the base of the bust.

The whole portrait gallery of Lithuania’s rulers and most famous magnates was created at the end of the 18th century by the artist Konstanty Aleksandrowicz. Fifty-seven of the portraits depict the most famous members of Lithuania’s leading noble families and state officials, such as Lithuanian hetmen, chancellors, voivodes, bishops, and others. There are nineteen portraits of the Radziwiłłs, eight of the Sapiehas, five of the Wiśniowieckis, seven of the Chodkiewicz counts as well as others of the Sanguszko, Pac, Pociej, Ostrogski, Tiskiewicz, and Gosiewski family members. Three portraits depict other important figures in Lithuanian history – the 16th century Hungarian commander Gáspár Bekes, who was buried in Vilnius; the famous 17th century Vilnius mayor and medical doctor Paweł Boym; and the renowned late 18th–early 19th century Vilnius artist Prof. Franciszek Smuglewicz. The most popular of the Lithuanian magnates and high-ranking state officials is the Grand Hetman of Lithuania and Voivode of Vilnius Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł (1702–1762), who is depicted in five portraits. The hero of the 1605 Battle of Kircholm, Grand Hetman of Lithuania, Voivode of Vilnius and Governor of Livonia Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560–1621) and Voivode of Vilnius Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł (1734–1790) are depicted in three portraits. The famous Vilnius bishops and generous patrons of the arts and sciences, Cardinal Jerzy Radziwiłł (1556–1600) and Michał Stefan Pac (1623–1684), are captured in truly impressive portraits. A very well done portrait by Joseph Pitschmann shows one of the last outstanding officials of the Lithuanian state – the artillery general and marshall of the Four Year Sejm, Kazimierz Nestor Sapieha (1757–1798).

Abbreviations

Volhynia Museum of Regional Studies
Lviv National Art Gallery
Lviv History Museum